Basmati Blues: Twitter criticises Brie Larson film for 'white savior' complex, stereotypical portrayal of India
A shot of a goat kicking a foreign tourist, a white person trying to navigate India's cultural landscape and mannerism — if you thought that this was the description of a Hollywood movie from late 90s-early 2000 like Outsourced, you're wrong. This is Brie Larson's upcoming film Basmati Blues, which is due for release on 24 November.
In it, Brie Larson plays an American scientist who works for a company which produces genetically modified rice. She is sent to India to convince farmers to buy this rice, but soon realises that the rice is sterile, and then embarks on a mission to end the woes of these farmers. There's also the subplot of a romance with a local with a put-on accent in the narrative.
The film was shot many years ago, but that doesn't seem to have stopped people from criticising it for presenting a stereotypical picture of Indians and for telling the story through the lens of a white saviour, that is, a white character who saves the downtrodden or savages from harm. Outrage poured in after the trailer was released on Youtube.
https://t.co/QGsZALtasd So fuckin done with hollywood films of white people coming to save our souls & rice & lands! Blood Diamond formulaic bullshit! Disgusted by @brielarson's choice, what a sellout! Fuck the white saviour narrative in films...nothing is further from the truth!
— Samya (@samyarif) November 9, 2017
#basmatiblues is a terrible looking film filled with loads of stereotypes about Indians & India. We don’t need another movie about white saviours when we did everything in our power to get white people out of our country. Stop making shit films. Please🙏🏽 — Neha Wanikar (@nehawanikar21) November 9, 2017
I just saw the trailer of Basmati Blues. pic.twitter.com/Fqtsc4h25G
— Pri (@siriuslyveiled) November 9, 2017
Using my 280. Okay so Brie Larson is in this movie called (uhg) #BasmatiBlues (ew) and I'll be damned if she can even PRONOUNCE Basmati (and no, it's not BAZ-MAH-TEA). White people are always gonna make cringy movies about India, its a fact, but this trailer takes the CRINGE CAKE — Anjali Rathore (@jellibean0415) November 10, 2017
They also commented on the absurdity of one scene where Larson's character whips out a microscope in an Indian train.
— bad day everyday (@sherinlinda) November 9, 2017
Some users, who are fans of Larson, an Oscar-winning actress (she won an Academy Award for her performance in Room), were mad at her for picking a film such as Basmati Blues.
Basmati Blues. Really. Really. Come on Brie. You can't not clap Affleck and then turn around and do THAT. — AB Film Review (@ABFilmReview) November 9, 2017
It's suddenly feeling like a lot longer than two years since Brie Larson won an Oscar. https://t.co/HMsU4CUKIM
— Guy Lodge (@GuyLodge) November 10, 2017
Some came to her defense and said that she would never do such a film if it were offered to her now.
Ffs Basmati Blues was shot before SHORT TERM 12 was even released. Why are people freaking out so much? I get it, it's incredibly offensive, but we all make mistakes. I'm sure that Brie Larson wouldn't sign onto a project like that today. — I. Simon (@MOVIEFAN993) November 9, 2017
Some pointed out that the plot didn't need the intervention of a white person at all.
#basmatiblues What's ironic here is that Americans are not going into science. IRL this woman could be from India herself. Better film.
— Patricia Schwarz (@TessEractica) November 14, 2017
One of the producers of the film said that they never intended to offend anyone, and that the international trailer had led to a gross misinterpretation. "We have heard a number of voices that have understandably reacted to a trailer that is not representative of the film as a whole. Unfortunately, the international trailer has given the wrong impression of the film's message and heart. This movie is not about an American going abroad to solve India's problems. At its heart, this film is about two people who reach across cultures, fight against corporate greed, and find love. Basmati Blues is an ensemble musical romantic comedy. The film explores our responsibility for our actions and for each other, and attempts to do it in a disarming way, using music, comedy, and romance," said producer Monique Caulfield to Refinery 29.
She went on to say that the film is a "love letter to multiple eras of Bollywood cinema". But only time will tell if it is not another of Hollywoood's biased takes on the issues that India suffers from.